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World History
Supplemental Reading: Religions of the Arab World
On your own, annotate while reading about the three monotheistic religions of the Arab World.
After reading each section, provide a 10% summary of that section in the space provided. We
expect you to ask questions! You will be assigned specific sections of the reading to complete
each night. They will be checked every day until the packet is due. This entire packet must be
complete by .
Chunk this assignment as follows:
 In Class – Complete: Introduction to Abrahamic Faiths and Origins of the Abrahamic
 Night 1---Basic Beliefs
 Night 2 – Complete: God, Prophets, Revelations, and the Messiah, Holy Books &
Religious Leaders
 Night 3 – Complete: Religious Practices, Ten Commandments, etc.
Introduction to the Abrahamic Faiths
Among the major world religions, three are very closely related in their origins (how they
began), their beliefs, and their holy book(s). They are also closely related in their beliefs about
morals and ethics, and their views of the individual and social life. They do differ, however, in
important aspects of their beliefs. For thousands of years, these religions have had both
peaceful relations as well as times of great conflict.
10% Summary:
Origins of the Abrahamic Faiths
It was Abraham, who lived sometime after the year 2,000 BC, who was called by God to move
his people to the Holy Land, the land now called Israel. In exchange for this holy land of Israel,
the Jews promised to give up their belief in all other Gods and pray only to God; this is how the
monotheistic religion of Judaism was born about 4,000 years ago.
Over time, the lands of the Middle East and Northern Africa have seen the birth of the world’s
three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The prophets mentioned
in the Jewish holy book (The Torah), the Christian holy book (The Bible), and the Muslim holy
book (The Koran), were born and lived in this region.
10% Summary
Basic Beliefs
Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that God made a promise to Abraham to worship only the
one God. In exchange for this, God would protect all the generations of the faith. Abraham’s
offspring settled in different parts of the Middle East, one near Jerusalem, and one in Makkah
(Mecca). According to the Torah, Abraham was promised that his offspring would become the
fathers of great nations. These nations are the people who are now called Jews, Christians, and
Muslims. They are called monotheists, meaning people who believe in one God.
The common core of Abraham’s story is his faith and obedience to the call of God. It is
expressed in the Jewish and Christian traditions in a verse of the book of Genesis and in the
Qur’an, 2:131. God calls on Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham and his son were prepared
to obey this command, but God stopped Abraham and, instead, accepted the sacrifice of a
magnificent ram. The miracle meant that God does not require human sacrifice, but only the
willingness to obey. The Biblical story says that the son to be sacrificed was Isaac, while the
Qur’an states that it was the first-born son, Ishmael. The lesson of obedience and strength of
faith, however, is the same.
10% Summary
God, Prophets, Revelations, and the Messiah
All of the monotheistic faiths share a belief that God, the Creator, has “spoken” to humankind
over time. The word for this divine communication is revelation. It is believed that God
revealed Himself to certain individuals called prophets over the course of human history.
Prophets are messengers of God. It is believed that God communicated five main messages: 1)
the nature and qualities of the one God; 2) the purpose and nature of the universe created by
God; 3) the need to worship one God; 4) the purpose of human life and the need to live a
righteous life and the news of judgement after death, and reward or punishment in the
afterlife, 5) morals and laws which people are told to follow. The Abrahamic faiths have a
common believe in angels as God’s deliverers of these messages. All three faiths accept, for the
most part, that Abraham, Noah, and Moses were prophets. They differ, however, in their view
of two individuals: Jesus and Muhammad.
Another concept common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the concept of the belief in the
Messiah. The word means one who is chosen by God for a specific holy task. Christians believe
that Jesus, born 2000 years ago, was the Messiah who came to Earth to die for man’s sins.
Muslims also believe that Jesus was a very important prophet and that he was the Messiah.
However, while Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, Muslims do not. Muslims also
do not believe that God allowed Jesus to be killed at the hands of human beings – the
crucifixion. Muslims believe Jesus ascended directly to Heaven after his death, while Christians
believe he was resurrected from the dead. Jews believe that Jesus was not the Messiah; they
believe a messiah will come at some future time. Some Jews believe that Jesus was a spiritual
Muslims believe that Muhammad was a prophet, a man who was born in Makkah (Mecca) in
about the year 570, around 1,250 years ago. They believe that Muhammad received the word
of God (Allah), as written in the holy book called the Qur’an (Koran). Historically, Muhammad
was not accepted as a prophet by Christians and Jews.
10% Summary
The Holy Books & Religious Leaders
The scripture (or holy book) of Judaism is the Torah. It begins with the five Books of Moses.
The Torah contains the word of God that was given to Moses. It contains history, law, poetry
and song. It is written on a scroll and recited in Hebrew as a part of Jewish worship.
The scripture of Christianity is the Bible, including the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible of
Judaism, including the first five books), and the New Testament. The New Testament includes
the books that describe the life and teachings of Jesus and the history of the early Church. It
was assembled from the writings of many authors over time.
The scripture of Islam is the Qur’an (Koran). It consists of 114 chapters and over 6000 verses.
Muslims believe that it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel
over a period of 23 years. The Qur’an describes and affirms the basic spiritual and moral
messages of the Torah and the Bible. The Qur’an text states that it is a continuation of God’s
message to humankind from those earlier holy books.
In Judaism, leaders are called Rabbis, and they receive demanding training in the scriptures and
other Judaic writings. In Christianity, priests and pastors serve as religious leaders. Only trained
priests can perform certain sacred functions of worship for ordinary, people. In Islam, there is
no priesthood or formal religious leadership. A prayer leader is called an imam—“one who
stands in front” of the lines of worshippers. Some Muslim’s offer advice on how to practice
Islam to other Muslims.
10% Summary
Religious Practices
All three Monotheistic religions share many ideas about the nature of God. He is the Creator of
the Universe, and is a God of justice, mercy, and power over all of human life on Earth. The
religions also believe the god will judge all human beings on Judgment Day, after they have
died, and to reward or punish them according to God’s justice. All of the faiths believe that God
requires human beings to show mercy to others, as well as to do good deeds such as helping
others. God will reward those who have faith and who have done good works world.
Belief in the need to worship God is common to all religions. The most basic form of worship is
prayer. Each tradition teaches specific words and requirements for prayer, which takes place at
appointed times of day. Public prayer in houses of worship is common to all three faiths—for
Jews on Saturday, for Christians on Sunday, and for Muslims on Friday—and during celebrations
throughout the year. Other types of worship, such as fasting, pilgrimage (a religious journey),
and charity are common among the monotheistic religions.
10% Summary
The Ten Commandments, Five Pillars of Islam, and Good Deeds
The most basic set of moral and ethical values in the Biblical tradition is the Ten
Commandments, which was part of the word of God taught by Moses. The Ten Commandments
appear in the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an. The Ten Commandments instructs believers,
among other things, to worship god and to behave in an ethical manner.
Muslims alone perform formal acts of worship called the Five Pillars of Islam. They provide the
basis for all aspects of Muslim life and consist of 1) a declaration of faith in Allah; 2) prayer
three to five times daily; 3) charitable giving, or alms; 4) fasting; and 5) pilgrimage. The two
most important Islamic festivals celebrate the end of the month of fasting (Ramadan) and the
pilgrimage (a holy journey) to Mecca (the Hajj). Each Muslim is expected to make this journey
once in their life if they are able. Every year, millions of Muslims travel to Mecca in Saudi
Arabia to worship at the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque. In Islam, the Kaaba is the holiest site in
the world as it is believed that Muhammad himself dedicated the site to Allah.
As stated above, Jewish people believe that there is one God who wants people to do good and
merciful. For this reason, Jewish people focus more on this life than the afterlife. They
anticipate with joy a time when God will send his Messiah to announce the final setting up of
God’s kingdom on Earth. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, and Hanukkah are just a few
of some very important Jewish celebrations. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It is a
celebration of the creation of the world and God’s rule over it. On Yom Kippur, or the Day of
Atonement, Jews fast and express their sorrow for bad deeds done over the past year. They
express a desire to do good in the coming year. Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights, celebrates the
Jewish victory over the ancient Syrians, who wanted them to give up Judaism.
Another type of religious practice that affects how religiously diverse groups get along is rules
about food. Jews and Muslims both follow dietary laws about the types of meat they can eat,
how animals used for meat are slaughtered and prepared. Christians do not follow either the
very detailed laws about the food of the Jews, nor do they follow the laws in Islam that forbid
eating pork and drinking alcoholic beverages.
10% Summary
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